The first month of my four month stay in Seoul has passed much faster than I would have liked. Thus far I have done many things that I had hoped to accomplish during my journey here, including visiting Seoul Tower, eating lots of barbecue, and hiking through nature. While I have checked off many things off of my to-do list; I have also had the luxury of trying things I had never imagined myself doing. In this post I want to highlight the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking advantage of every opportunity that the world presents you with!
Traditionally, I have never been someone who identified as a big sports fan. I used to enjoy playing soccer in middle school and tend to watch the super bowl most years, but that’s about the extent of my passion for competitive sports. That being said, when I heard about the long-standing rivalry between Yonsei University (my study abroad university) and Korea University (another prestigious private university) in the form of an annual multi-sport competition, I knew I had to attend. The Yonko games (or Koryo games, depending on which university you attend) is the most hotly contested collegiate rivalries in South Korea, in which both universities compete against each other in baseball, basketball, ice hockey, rugby, and soccer. These games are a historic tradition, with the origins of the athletic rivalry dating back to 1923. Both sides eagerly support their teams through vigorous cheering through the games and while it is called a rivalry there is never any bad blood harbored between the universities, but more on that later. The games were an extremely fun and social time, which included me waking up at 7 in the morning in order to get good seats at a baseball game (something that I had never imagined myself doing!) I met a number of great people at these events and did an exhausting amount of cheering. Luckily for us, Yonsei ended up winning the competition 5-0, their first win in seven years! After the games, both students from both universities celebrated in Sinchon, the town in which Yonsei is located. Despite the rivalry during the games, students came together to socialize, drink and eat together. In Sinchon, myself and hundreds of fellow students formed “trains” that headed to restaurants in order to receive free food and drinks. Overall, the games and the resulting celebration will be remembered as one of my favorite moments spent in South Korea.
Another way I expanded past my comfort zone during my study abroad experience is my recent pursuit of kickboxing! I had never practiced martial arts (excluding a brief 1 month stint in karate during elementary school) but it has always been something I was interested in trying. Therefore, when a few of my friends revealed that they practiced kickboxing back home and that the club here accepted exchange students, I quickly volunteered to join. I was also inspired by my grandfather, who was a winning boxer while my family lived in Korea! Thus far, I have attended a few practices which I found myself enjoying quite a lot. More importantly, it has exposed me to native students and allowed me to befriend people that I could otherwise never meet.
In conclusion, my experience abroad has allowed me to pursue things that I never pictured myself doing. The trip as a whole has revealed many new insights into what I enjoy and the person I am. Keeping in theme with trying new things; this upcoming week is a national holiday and I am excited to be doing a temple-stay program, in which I will be doing meditation and learning about traditional Buddhist culture. As always, I am extremely thankful to be granted this opportunity and in my next blog I aim to discuss the academic side of my stay as well as managing the balance between work and exploration during study abroad!